A graduate of George Mason University, Erica Pristas received a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the School of Management before embarking on a career as an accountant specialist district manager at ADP, Inc.
Since 2008, she has been the director of membership for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, where she uses her marketing knowledge and creativity to help new and existing members get the most out of their membership.
Following is an article she wrote for Be Inkandescent Magazine.
How To “Think Globally, Act Locally” by Joining a Chamber of Commerce
By Erica Pristas
Arlington Chamber of Commerce
As a membership director of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Northern Virginia, one of my favorite phone calls comes from a business owner saying, “I’m about to open a business and want to get involved with my local community. How can I market my business through the Chamber?”
That call feels like Christmas morning to me. And that’s not because it is my job to grow the membership of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce here in Northern Virginia. It’s because I know the business owner on the other end of the line realizes that they will be successful by networking with other local companies.
It may sound like a sales pitch, but I can tell you from experience that it’s true. Aligning your business with an entrenched entity like a Chamber of Commerce is truly one of the best ways to build your brand. Here’s why.
1. Chambers of Commerce are nationally recognized and trusted globally for supporting the local business community.
A recent national study done by The Shapiro Group found that when consumers know that a small business is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, they are 44% more likely to think favorably of it, and 63% more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.
By joining a local Chamber of Commerce and networking with other members, your business sends the message to potential clients that you are a credible business, a leader in your industry, and that you are invested in the local community.
2. Due to the Chamber of Commerce’s trusted name, many business owners and the general public refer to its online membership directory to find credible service providers.
No kidding. I get calls every week from businesses, in and out of the area, that are looking to connect with local firms. And businesses that have expanded regionally, nationally, or even globally also have the potential to refer their business partners to their expanded network.
In addition, due to the amount of traffic on the Chamber’s website, and the directory listing with links to business members’ websites, your website will rank higher in an organic Google search.
3. Chambers of Commerce give business owners the ability to connect with a large network of potential clients, partners, and advisors through a variety of forums.
These include a number of networking events, educational seminars, roundtable discussions and committees. Don’t be shy. Volunteer to be a panelist, but first start by showing up at events and talking with key players.
This will not only help you introduce yourself to the people who are also networking well, it will give you access to potential customers, as well as new friends.
4. Chambers of Commerce are a catalyst for change.
By bringing both public and business leaders together, Chambers can do collectively what could not be done individually. In fact, Chambers support member organizations by performing a function many companies cannot afford to: the business of lobbying.
Since businesses don’t vote, the temptation is to load the business community with unpopular and stifling taxes and fees. Someone—some group—must look out for the business community’s interests. Your Chamber considers this task to be one of its most vital roles.
6. Chamber leaders recognize the importance of staying active in the community where its members do business.
Through this involvement, the Chamber is able to keep a hands-on approach to affecting positive outcomes in the community. Get involved and join a committee.
7. With your membership in the chamber, you can take advantage of marketing and promotional opportunities to get your name in front of thousands of leaders.
At the Arlington Chamber, we offer the following opportunities to our 1,800 members:
8. Chambers off a wide variety of events and meetings. The Arlington Chamber annually hosts more than 100 events and committee meetings.
Each of these events offers members the opportunity to network with other chamber members. This is a great way to get to know decision makers and market your company! Some networking events include:
To find both state and local Chambers of Commerce, Convention Centers, Visitor Bureaus and Tourist Boards in the United States that provide U.S. business, relocation, visitor and tourist attraction information, visit the United States Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau Directory at www.2chambers.com.
If you would like more information about the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, or if you are ready to join, please contact Erica Pristas, EPristas@ArlingtonChamber.org or 703-525-2400, x202. And do log on to our website, www.arlingtonchamber.org for more details.
About the Arlington Chamber of Commerce
A member-centric, non-profit organization that represents more than 1,800 businesses and professionals, the Arlington Chamber is committed to the economic and civic well being of this Northern Virginia community. The Chamber welcomes all for-profit and non-profit entities who are located in Arlington or simply want to interact with the Arlington business community. Find out more about the benefits of joining the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at www.arlingtonchamber.org.